With what little sleep I had last night, and Eli and three other uniformed officers at my house, I dragged my ass into the shower, and got dressed. The clock next to my bed read six sixteen in the morning.
Great, three hours of sleep. It’s gonna be a long ass day!
I made my way downstairs, sliding my phone into my back pocket, and nodding my greetings to the officer standing in my kitchen.
Eli was still asleep on the couch, and the other two officers stood outside, by the front and back door. I flicked on the coffee machine, filling it with water when a knock on the door and then the door opening caught my attention.
One of the officers came in, holding the door open for Gail.
I frowned at her, but my smile spread without warning, “Morning, what are you…” I asked, but she stuck her finger on her lips to hush me and shook her head.
She motioned a telephone by her ear, and stuck out her hand, waiting. I pulled out my phone and placed it in her hand. She took out a silver foil bag from her handbag, and dropped the phone in, closing the bag, and letting out a sigh.
“Hey, Paul. Sorry, had to do that before we spoke.” She said, wrapping the bag around the phone and sticking it back into her handbag.
I turned back to the kitchen, to the coffee machine and poured the coffee powder in, leaving it to do its thing.
“What’s that all about?” I asked, gesturing for her to sit down at the dining table.
“When I ran the trace on your phone, I found a ghost code embedded into your operating system-”
“Gail,” I interrupted her rambling, “English. We don’t all speak nerd.” I said with a smile.
“Sorry. He’s been listening to you, tracking you. He saw every text you sent, heard every call you made. That’s how he knew Lilly was in Florida.”
I dropped my head into my hands, “Perfect.” I mumbled.
Gail dug in her bag and pulled out a box with a new phone inside. “This is a secure phone, it’s clean, and can’t be hacked. I set it all up for you already. Use this from now on.”
She slid it over to me, and then the receipt, “And you owe me three hundred bucks.” She smiled.
Eli moaned in the living room, stretching his body, and standing up slowly. “I smell coffee.” He called out before turning to us, “Oh hey Gail. What are you doing here?” He asked.
“Just dropping off a new phone for Paul.”
Eli nodded, “Hey Paul, where’s your bathroom?” He asked.
“Upstairs, first door on the right,” I said, and watched him run up, taking two stairs at a time.
Gail turned back to me, “Paul, are you ok?”
I let out a quick laugh, “Not even close. But I’m not gonna stop until he’s dead. I can’t stop.”
I met her eyes then. The blue in them swimming with worry. A strange combination you don’t see every day. Pitch black hair, with bright blue eyes.
The coffee machine pinged in the kitchen, and I tore my eyes away from her, “Coffee?” I asked, standing up.
“Sure.” She mumbled.
The officer in the kitchen gave me a nod and went out the back door.
I reached for three cups, poured the coffee in each and took them back to the table.
Eli came running down the stairs and sat down at the table next to Gail. I slid one of the cups over to him and went back for the milk in the fridge, and a pot of sugar from the counter.
“So, what are we doing today?” Gail asked, grabbing the sugar.
I sat down, “How’s it going with all that shit the techs found in my house?”
“Slow. There’s a lot, and to go through it all is gonna take a few days. I’m waiting for the suppliers to get back to me, but I think it’s a bit early to expect a call.”
She threw in four spoons of sugar and reached for the milk.
“How did he get that picture?” Eli asked, sitting forward.
“What picture?” Gail looked between us.
I gestured for Eli to show her the photo we took of it before an officer took it into evidence.
She stared at it, “Where was it?” She asked without looking up.
“In Paul’s car. I saw it there yesterday afternoon, and when we got back here last night, it was on the table. The creepy mustache guy wasn’t there either.”
“He broke into your car, stole this picture, drew himself in it, then broke into your house and left it here for you. All while thirty cops searched your house all day. How?” Gail asked, looking at me.
I shrugged, “I don’t know. That’s what kept me up most of the night. How did he pull so much off in one day?”
I looked between them and sipped my coffee.
Eli looked at Gail, then at me. He shrugged his shoulders and sipped his coffee.
I laughed dryly, “Either way, Lilly is back today, and I can’t let him get so close again. We need to find him. He likes to get close, so maybe that’s what we do. Instead of looking for him, we wait until he gets close to me again. Have someone following me, watching the shadows.”
Eli said, “That could work,” and Gail said, “That won’t work,” at the same time.
They looked at each other, and Eli spoke first.
“Why wouldn’t it work? Have a non-uniform officer follow Paul around, but instead of watching Paul, he will watch everyone around him.”
Gail shook her head, “It won't work. If yesterday told us anything, it's that this guy is smart. He is meticulous, and he has been planning this for a while, otherwise why come out of hiding at all. Everything we know about him is what he wants us to know. He will expect a move like that, and someone will end up getting hurt, or worse.”
Eli was about to argue, but I cut him off before he could speak, “She’s right Eli. It’s risky. We have no idea what he has in store for us and bringing anyone else it will only put them in harm’s way. That’s why,” I turned to Gail, “I want you as far away from this as possible. Don’t help us anymore, don’t come to the house, and don’t call me. He made it clear he is willing to hurt everyone I care about to get to me, and I won’t let him hurt you.”
I turned back to Eli, “It’s not too late to pull out, man. Get your wife and son as far away from here as you can, and when it’s over, Tom will have a job waiting for you, I promise.”
Both of them had the same shocked stare in their eyes. Eli shook his head with a laugh, “You’re kidding, right? You want to bench me? Now?”
Gail placed her hand on top of mine on the table, “Paul, you can’t fight him alone. You need help, and this guy is smart and very tech savvy. You need me on this. And I won’t run scared, not now. Not after everything.”
Her blue eyes caught mine, and a small smile spread on my face. “I don’t know what he will do. Who he’s going to go after next. If he finds out you guys are helping me, he will use that to hurt me.”
Gail leaned in closer, “He already knows. He had your phone tapped. We’re in, like it or not.” She smiled.
I put my free hand on top of hers, “Thank you, Gail. And you Eli. But the second I get so much as a whiff of him coming after any of you, we pull the plug, and you guys run, understand?”
They both nodded, looking at each other, then at me. Eli asked, “Where do we start today?”
Gail gave my hand one last squeeze and reached for her handbag. “I have a friend in the FBI behavioral analysis unit. I called him last night and asked him to work up a profile for this guy for us. Maybe something there will give us an idea of where he might be hiding, or what his next move might be. We know he can’t go back to Molly’s house, he can’t leave Portland, not with every cop in the city looking for him, and he’s fixated on you, Paul. You’re his unicorn, the one that got away. You and Lilly. He needs to finish what he started. Normally I would say that’s the bad news, but it does tell us one thing. He won't leave till he gets you, and sooner or later, he is going to make a move. When he does we need to be ready.”
She pulled out a box and opened it. Inside lay the same small cameras the techs found in my house.
“What’s that for?” I asked. “To watch you. Or rather to watch when he comes back again. I have three motion-activated cameras, mikes, and a panic button. All of this is recorded back at the lab, and watched twenty-four seven, so if he comes back to the house, the cops will know. Tom is putting some guys in front of your house to be here in seconds if he shows up.”
I was about to thank her, but my phone, the one in her bag rang out, and we all looked at each other. Gail dug into her bag, pulled out a small tablet, and a cord, then handed me the silver bag, now vibrating in my hand. I took the phone out and showed them the unknown number on the screen. Gail attached the cord and nodded to me.
I slid to answer and put the call on speaker. “What do you want?”
“Good morning Paul. Hope you slept well.” His dragged-out tone, pushing all the light from my mind.
“Like a baby. You?” I asked as Gail mimed for me to keep him talking.
“How thoughtful of you to ask. I slept fine, but I must say, the excitement for what we’re going to do together today had me up with the birds.”
I could hear the smile in his voice as he spoke.
“Yeah, and what’s that? You gonna keep running away like a roach? Scared to come out into the light.”
“I told you not to upset me, Paul. Name calling is beneath you.”
“It’s not name calling, I’m just telling you the truth, you pathetic coward. What’s your deal, ha? What, mommy didn’t love you, daddy loved you a little too much? What fucks a guy up so much that he has nothing better to do with his life, then bug a guy like me? I have better things to do than to play your stupid games. I’m not scared of you. I’m not gonna run or lose any sleep over you.”
I waited to see if he would reply, checking to make sure he hadn’t hung up.
“What’s wrong, there buddy? Lost for words? Or is the truth a little too hard to hear?”
His sigh echoed over the line, “See what you’ve done now Paul. You’ve upset me, and you need to be taught a lesson. Tell Lilly I say hi when you see her later, and we will talk tomorrow. Maybe your attitude will be a little different then.” He said, and the call ended.
Eli asked, “You sure about this? You know what he’s going to do now, right?”
“I’m done playing his games,” I said, as I picked up the new phone and dialed Tom’s number.
“Mason, everything ok?” Toms deep voice asked.
“Morning Captain, sorry to wake you.”
A short shuffle over the line, then Tom said, “You didn’t. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“No one did. Listen, Tom, I think he’s going to make a move today. I think its time you to go on TV. Warn the public that he’s back. Have everyone on the lookout for him.”
Tom sighed, “Are you sure you want to open that can of worms? Once the press knows, it’s going to be a fucking circus.”
“I know. But it’s better people know, and are ready, just in case. Maybe we get lucky and he gets his ass blown off by breaking into the wrong house.”
A moment of silence, then, “Ok. I will send out a briefing to the news stations and make an announcement when I get into the office. How do you know he’s going to make a move?”
“He called again this morning.”
“Did Gail bring you the new phone?” He asked.
I looked at Gail, her eyes glued to the small screen, “Yeah she did. See you in the office later.” I said and hung up.
Eli stood, “I gotta go home, have a shower and kiss my wife and kid. I will meet you guys at the station in about an hour and a half.” He finished his coffee and left the house.
I turned to Gail, “How did you get here?”
She tore her eyes away from the screen and met mine, “On the bus. I don’t have a car.” She smiled.
“Ok, come on, I will drive us. We better get started on finding this asshole.”